Solly Msimanga sets his sights on premier candidacy after re-election as DA Gauteng leader
Now that he has been re-elected as the leader of the DA in Gauteng, Solly Msimanga is vying to become the party’s candidate for premier in the 2024 elections.
The DA’s provincial conference over the weekend saw MPL Khume Ramulifho lose his shot at running the party’s Gauteng structures after Solly Msimanga garnered enough support to be re-elected as provincial leader.
Fred Nel was again elected as the Gauteng chair and Pogiso Mthimunye was elected as his deputy.
Msimanga told Daily Maverick on Monday he is among those who have applied and been interviewed by the party to run as its Gauteng premier candidate in the 2024 elections. Msimanga is running against Ramulifho and MP Ghaleb Cachalia. The party is expected to announce its candidate in the coming weeks.
“From all the three candidates, I am the one with experience dealing with coalitions. What can also be mentioned is that I am the only one who has held an executive position in government,” he said.
Msimanga was elected as mayor of Tshwane after the 2016 local elections through a coalition government between the DA and a number of smaller parties, with the informal backing of the EFF.
He stepped down as the mayor of Tshwane in 2019 in a bid to focus on his ambitions of being the provincial leader.
He was then appointed as the DA’s acting provincial leader after the departure of John Moodey. Msimanga was officially elected to the position at the DA’s virtual Gauteng conference in 2020.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Gauteng leader John Moodey quits DA, citing ‘purge’ of dissenting views
The DA has repeatedly claimed that it has a superior record in government than the ANC and other opposition parties, but it will be competing in next year’s elections with the Hammanskraal water crisis hanging over its head.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Killer cholera hits amid decade-long bickering over Hammanskraal water crisis – and tender scandals
Msimanga believes the crisis will not deter Gauteng voters from supporting the DA in the 2024 elections.
“We will not really have an issue with voters because they know the issue did not come with the DA. When I was a councillor, we got an international company which was going to assist, but the national Department of Water and Sanitation blocked it. This was blocked by the ANC because they knew that if they had worked with us, they would have been in the cold [with voters],” he said.
Raw sewage has been pouring into a river near the Rooiwal wastewater treatment works, which treats Hammanskraal’s sewage. For many years, Hammanskraal residents have had undrinkable water while upgrades of the plant commenced and never finished.
Earlier this year, there was an outbreak of cholera that affected multiple areas but which centred on Hammanskraal, causing 32 deaths. The Water Research Council was commissioned by the Department of Water and Sanitation to conduct an independent investigation and said it was still not known whether contaminated water was the source of the cholera outbreak.
‘Within spitting distance’
In the 2019 general elections in Gauteng, the three biggest parties were the ANC, DA and EFF. The gap between the ANC and DA was significant — the governing party garnered 50.19% of the vote while the official opposition won only 27.45%.
Msimanga believes the party has what it takes to convince voters from different backgrounds to ditch the ANC and vote for the DA instead.
“We have been having a slight advantage on the ANC when it comes to polling in urban setups. Administratively, the DA is the strongest party; that is why we were able to this week get 1,000 people together and have been able to vote for leadership and pass constitutional amendments.
“We have also been championing issues of all demographics, looking at legislation which excludes Indians and coloureds from the economy,” Msimanga said.
In his victory speech after his re-election, Msimanga called on the DA to focus on the 2024 elections.
“The battle is never internally, but externally focused. We will lose a great opportunity if we remain internally focused and allow … divisions to creep in, in the Democratic Alliance. Our job is carved for us. The people of Gauteng are demanding a change in leadership.
“They are demanding … an economy that will work for them. They are demanding … cities that are able to provide services to them. Police that will face criminals head-on. Hospitals that will provide world-class health services. Education that doesn’t produce illiterate learners, but produces those that can compete with the best in the world.
“They are demanding an end to infrastructure collapse, they are demanding … fairness in jobs. They are demanding that we open opportunities for all,” he said.
Speaking at the Gauteng conference, held in Boksburg, the DA Federal Council chair, Helen Zille, said that there was a strong chance that the DA could garner enough votes to remove the ANC from power next year.
“We are within spitting distance of the yellow party, and this election may be blue versus yellow. That is what it is in this election. But it won’t be long before a choice between blue and red [the EFF]. This will be the choice for South Africa.”
Zille also predicted the fall of the ANC.
“I have lived long enough to see the death of two parties, one being the United Party. They could not default to principles; they unravelled and died,” she said.
DA 2024 plans in the works
The DA has been gearing up towards its 2024 campaign.
In a memo sent out to party members by Zille on 30 June, she set out that the party would put forward premier candidates in only five provinces: Western Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and the Free State.
Last week, party leader John Steenhuisen announced Roy Jankielsohn as the DA’s premier candidate for Free State.
The DA has listed a number of requirements for those applying for premier candidate positions. The party requires candidates to have completed matric; experience as a public representative; specialised or demonstrable skills; two years of involvement in the DA or a community; leadership or management experience in dealing with complex organisations and leading teams; and a positive public profile. DM